A Burning Cold Morning (Part 81)

The time period from his loss of the King Company job and the start of 1966 were filled with longer and longer absences from home, an increase in diabetic symptoms and attacks, more crime and a return to his womanizing ways.  He did maintain his cover while back in St. Anthony with Amanda and Sharon, getting right back into the groove of home life for the limited amount of time he spent with them.  He read his newspapers, went to church, worked at his role as a father and purchased gifts for Amanda.  He did still frequent the Gay 90’s club where he was a popular regular and as one former manager put it, “he loved that place and we loved him.”  When he was not with his family in Minnesota he had his other side on full display as he frequented clubs in many cities, had a large cache of girlfriends and spent his days plotting crimes.  When he did pull off a job, he was increasingly direct and stern when committing those acts, not suffering fools or any attempts by victims to deviate from his instructions.  He did not kill anyone but several people suffered pistol-whipping or gut punches after he judged them to be non-complaint.   

In late December of 1965 Leo was hospitalized in Montana after a severe diabetic incident and did not get released until ten days later.  When he was finally out he walked away from the hospital feeling uncertain of his future.  Beneath his tough demeanor even Leo knew that this last incident was a dire sign and that he may not have much longer to live.  Although he never had followed medical advice very well he had thought he was getting along well enough with his combination of partial compliance with doctor’s instructions, home-made remedies and general tough-guy refusal to be sick.  He was not so sure anymore about his immortality and quickly spun into a depression.  Eventually he made his way back to St. Anthony and although he never told Amanda the details of his hospital stay, she could tell that he had been sick and was not doing very well.  It was in January of 1966, while home with his family, that Leo met Tracy King one night at the Gay 90’s.  He was still feeling low and a bit depressed and they quickly started dating.  

The relationship accelerated quickly, much past the point Leo usually stoped at with his girlfriends and in May of 1966 he agreed to take her with him on his next trip.  He had already staked out a possible bank robbery in New Mexico which is where they headed.  The job was successful and that night Leo, flush with cash and with crime fueling his good spirits, got caught up in the mood and agreed to marry Tracy.  He thought better of that by the next morning and realized he was in a bit of a situation. He had to admit to himself that he did have deeper feelings for her than was usual and also that he enjoyed her company quite a bit.  She was young and full of energy, thought him to be quite the dashing gentleman and fit in well when they went out to clubs and dinner.  Deciding that he wanted to make her happy, Leo paid a man in Albuquerque to pretend he was a minister, after which he took Tracy to a park where that man performed the ceremony. 

Immediately after that they traveled to Denver, Colorado as Tracy stated she wanted to move there because she had family in the nearby area.  Leo set her up in an apartment and gave her some additional money for living expenses.  Telling her that he would be on the road quite often but would ensure that she was well-taken care of, he then departed and was back in St. Anthony by early June.  As he whiled away some time in his domestic role Leo came to realize that he had complicated his life quite a bit and that his expenses were going to go up considerably.  Having to maintain two residences, juggle his relationships and make time for everyone, along with plotting and committing enough crime to pay for it all, was going to be a challenge.  Leo felt certain that he was going to be able to make it work.  He did well for almost a year and although he was not getting rich from crime he did manage to make enough to keep both his Minnesota and Colorado lives rolling along smoothly.  

1967 Buick Skylark

1967 Buick Skylark

On May 1, 1967 Leo was in Carson City, Nevada and involved in a car theft scheme that he had set up.  In an unusual move for him there were some other players involved in this caper, mostly because it had expanded rapidly and Leo needed experienced car thieves to keep up with the demands of the chop shop he was working with at the time.  One of these men, Charlie Kittle, who had just joined up with the car-theft crew had also known Leo in the 1920’s back in Bakersfield.  A comment by Charlie one cold afternoon stunned Leo and brought some old feelings and memories back up to the surface.  The two of them were hanging out at the chop shop after Charlie had turned over a Buick Skylark he had taken from a grocery store parking lot.  

“What brought ya out here to Carson City anyway?” Leo asked.

“Hell, I was running from a botched job in Atlanta.  Big mess really, on a safe cracking gig.  Damn explosives malfunctioned and almost took the building down.  Two guys killed right there.  I ran for it but the noise had drawn a crowd out in the street.  Musta’ been twenty folks that saw me clear as day.  This is about a far away as I could get.”

“Sounds like one hell of a mess indeed,” Leo replied as he lit a cigarette.

“No kidding.  Your old buddy was to blame for it, too.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, you know, that wacko clock-maker you hung out with in Bakersfield back in the day.  It was his job. He’s the one that lit up that building.”

…to be continued

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